Does This Job Make My Butt Look Big?

Thanks to David for reminding me that the blog title is important. Just for the record, I am not covering that job you had that gave you an extra 15lbs by making you work 80 hours per week and feeding you ‘round-the-clock, all kinds of processed snack foods. That is a topic for another post altogether, or a therapy session (or both).

What I am talking about today is more on the idea of engagement and what I learned at a recent conference I attended. 

The session was hosted by the Conference Board and it was a preview into their 2008 engagement research. In a nutshell, they found what we here at TalentedApps have been saying for a while: the most critical element of engagement globally is a well structuredwell designedinspiring job.

This is not just having a job that provides you with growth opportunities, but also a job that fits well into your broader life, balancing the demands of both your personal and professional needs. 

What is so interesting about this study is how consistent this is across a global population. The four questions that “worked” in every geography to measure engagement were about:

  1. Variety and challenge of the work itself
  2. Interpersonal relationship with the manager
  3. Shared company values
  4. Opportunity for career growth

In the US, there was also a strong correlation between goal alignment and engagement. My personal guess is that this is evidence that the focus on strategically aligned and managed goals is beginning to take root. 

As we look at strategies for getting the most from ourselves and our teams, we must focus closely on how we define and measure jobs. That, to me, should be the strategic agenda of anyone interested in turning the employee engagement focus from a fad to a result.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

Why Are We Smarter About Puppies Than Humans?

While before I was talking about feedback in general, today I want to talk specifically about positive feedback and the merits of praise. 

Just coming back from The Conference Board’s Employee Engagement and Retention Conference last week, I was struck by just how far we have to go in this area. One point that summed it up for me was the following set of questions and responses.

When asked, “do you need encouragement to do your best at work?”

20% replied yes. 

When asked, “when you get encouragement, does it motivate you to do your best?”

90% replied yes.

We all read this and think “of course,” we know this. So I ask you, when was the last time you said thanks?

Does your team make it a standard practice to recognize the contributions in an authentic and timely way? Why do we understand so easily when training puppies that rewarding good behavior causes them to behave, but with people we focus on “constructive feedback” (and maybe once a year?!) and expect that to yield results.

I would encourage you to consider making a serious [focused] effort to say thank you more often. Not only will it help someone be motivated to continue to do their best, it might also help you to always look on the bright side of life.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.  

How to Not be a C-Player

I was reading the HBR article called A New Game Plan for C Players and it got me thinking. Of course, the point of the article was how C-players hurt your business. They are bad for morale of the rest of the team, and as a good friend of mine says, “they can do negative work” – suggesting that having a C-player around can actually cause you to spend more time fixing their work than just doing it yourself correctly the first time. 

What struck me though, was that while we all tend to agree that yes, C-players are bad for our teams, and yes, we should be better about taking action, I don’t feel that we actually spend time doing self-reflection to see if maybe we ourselves might be performing at less than our own A-game.

I was reminded recently that the most critical thing to “get right” for ourselves and our teams is a well aligned role to the individual. Keeping all examples to myself to avoid offending anyone, I can say with confidence that if my job were to help people who are lost get out of the woods, it is clear I would be the worst suited for it. If nagging people about deadlines and commitments is the job, then I’m a much better fit. Just ask my husband.

I have had the fortune (twice actually) of finding myself interviewing for a position in which the job description was a complete match for my experience. In both cases, these jobs were not only rewarding for me personally, I also managed to deliver products that had significant monetary benefit for the companies that hired me. By all measures this was A-player work. I was happy, I was challenged, and the work I delivered benefited. 

On the flip side, I have also managed to get myself stretched outside of my core competencies in such a way that the results of my efforts were so inferior I could not even fire myself, but had to give myself the task of cleaning up the mess first. While this made for a great poster and I did learn a lot, in retrospect, I know I should have done a better job in recognizing the signs and doing something about them, as a lot of people got hurt as a result of my C-player work.

So what is my real message here? First, I’d encourage us each to realize that we are each capable of both A-player and C-player work. For the majority of us fortunate enough to be considered “professionals,” life is not a huxley-esque situation where you are pre-defined as an alpha or an epsilon. 

It is up to us to best determine 

  • How do we quantify our talents? 
  • How do we align our talents with the jobs we are given? 
  • How do we push ourselves to give our best performance? 

Not just for the benefit of the company, but for the benefit of ourselves. Like anything else, the best way to “not” be a C-player is to take an active role in your own performance. What do you have to lose?

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

Thoughts on Retention

While I anxiously anticipate my Valentine posting from Amy (and my President’s day one, and my St. Patrick’s day one…) I thought I’d venture into the world of job retention. Specifically, how you can take an active role in retaining your own employment with a company. Yes, yet another reminder that you are personally responsible for your own career.

Of course, much of the thoughts I have on this subject are not necessarily based on things I’ve done right. In fact, I’ve only just recently passed the five-year mark at Oracle and that isn’t 100% accurate given that two years were spent at PeopleSoft before being acquired. 

One of the many surprises I found upon joining the development team at Oracle, was how many people have over 10 years with the company. In high tech, this is very unusual. In fact, I have encountered more seniority at Oracle than even at PeopleSoft which had an excellent reputation for retention. This joins a long list of merits of Oracle as an employer that were not widely publicized, probably a subject for another blog. 

So, what is the secret? I’m probably not giving away any trade secrets when I say that it’s probably not the pay, nor is it an environment without conflict or setbacks. I think that a key element is opportunity for personal development. Environments that attract smart people are excellent places to grow.

In fact, when I talk to people who have had long careers (10-20 years in high tech) with a single company, they are often quick to point out that they had held several different jobs, roles, or focuses over their tenure. So, if you are wondering about how to keep yourself retained in your current company and engaged in what you are doing, you might want to consider giving yourself new job challenges to keep yourself growing. While it is great if your job is already setup to challenge and grow you, even the best jobs will have dry spells.  It is at these times you will need to find your own path.

Suggestions: take on a side project, contribute to a cross-functional team, [gasp] start writing a blog, offer yourself up as a mentor and, of course, start setting goals for your personal development so you keep it top of mind as you progress.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

If You Love Someone, Set Them Free

Yes, the topic today is “Talent Mobility.” 

But Meg, you say, Mark already covered this topic a few weeks ago. Yes, I know he did, but I’ve made a career out of repeating what Mark has to say, I don’t see why I should stop doing that now that I have a blog goal of an entry every week

So the question is, how do managers deal with the conflicting priorities of wanting to succeed against their own objectives vs. the goals of their team members for career development? Especially when the next career progression for an individual is not an opportunity that the manager has on their team? How does an HR group encourage the idea of individual career development if they have managers who are incented to hoard talent? 

One of the first problems to address is how you incent your managers. If their incentives are exclusively project based and not based on growing their people you are probably going to have limited success in driving the kind of employee engagement that we have been talking about here at TalentedApps.

Another key factor will be showing talent mobility as a core value. Are those managers who develop and share talent known in your organization? Does your organization see these managers as more valuable? They should. Managers who are able to develop and share talent are going to provide more long-term value to your company than those managers who are only concerned with their own personal objectives. In addition, those managers who are good at spreading talent across your organization are probably those managers who have a more effective network in the organization, certainly a more loyal one.

So, as you look to set your own objectives this January think about how putting opportunities for those who work for you ahead of opportunities for yourself. Not only does the golden rule tell you to do this, but in the end, you and your company will benefit more as a result. 

Also, consider thanking someone who was influential in your own career by helping you achieve your own career goals, especially when that involved being open to the idea of you working somewhere else if that was necessary. To that end, I would like to thank my last two bosses (you know who you are and are probably thrilled to have me mention you publicly) who have made personal sacrifices to help me grow professionally. This, in addition to having to put up with me as an employee, certainly disserves a good karmic return. 

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

The Value of Teams

Back in school (go Cats), it was all the rage in the business program to have the majority of our work be team-based. The thinking being that in a work environment it is really more about teams than individuals. 

Lately, I’ve been reading and thinking about teams and Talent Management. Of course, this has taken me all over the place a bit, but I’ll do my best to make a point vs. forcing you all to wander all over the place like I have been. 

One place I ended up was an article on emotional intelligence of teams. To summarize, it’s not just important for individuals to have emotional intelligence, it’s also useful for teams (duh!). 

This article points to an HBR study that gives three contributing factors to high functioning teams.

  1. Trust among members
  2. A sense of group identity
  3. A sense of group efficacy

Okay, so teams need to trust each other, define themselves in terms of the group, and they must feel, that as a team, they have the ability to actually get something done. Again, duh!

Turns out that for some cultures (and for some people) a team dynamic is not just a nice to have. Thanks to Mark for pointing me to this article that suggests that in Asia the team might be the biggest factor in engagement (see, I told you I’d attempt to bring this to a point).

In talking to customers about teams, there are several head scratching elements that HR groups face in trying to build teams that work well together. Why do some teams work well and others not? Is it one person? How do we predict which teams will succeed? And so on. 

In my mind, it is for teams that the value of the social network can be brought to real business benefit. I would like to predict that companies that learn to leverage their social networks as both a productivity tool for teams and as a tool for proactively identifying team members will find a new competitive advantage for their talent. And, if the insight into Asia is accurate, there might be exponential benefit to this strategy as well.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.